The language of LGBTQ+ family planning can be dense and daunting. There are a lot of medical terms and acronyms, and if you don’t know all the jargon, it’s possible that you aren't even aware of all of your options for growing a family!
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The Language of LGBTQ+ Family Building
You’ve probably already heard some of the terms on this list, as many of them are becoming more common knowledge. However, the actual field definitions are usually a little more specific and can reveal important details.
One of our major goals here at Gay Parents To Be is making the process of family building easier for everyone we work with, and for the LGBTQ+ community in particular. With that in mind, we’ve put together this mini dictionary of standard LGBTQ+ family-building language.
Taking the time to get familiar with these terms and acronyms will not only help you feel more in the know, it may even open up additional family-building pathways or options for you to explore.
We recommend bookmarking this guide so you’ll always be ready for a quick cram session if needed. Maybe even sneak a peek on your phone in the waiting room before a doctor’s appointment so you feel more prepared! Let's dive in.
What is an REI?
We'll start with the professional title for the doctors you'll meet if you choose to work with Gay Parents To Be (more specifically, with our partner clinic, Illume Fertility). This definition is a little longer, but the more you know about our doctors’ extensive training and experience, the better.
First, endocrinology is the field of studying and treating hormone-related issues in the body. A board-certified reproductive endocrinologist (REI) is a doctor who studies and treats hormonal issues related to the human reproductive system.
REIs specialize in:
- In vitro fertilization
- Tubal factor infertility
- Male factor infertility
- Fertility preservation
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Pituitary dysfunction
- Uterine abnormalities
The great news is that reproductive endocrinologists go through a lot of training – meaning they have to be extremely dedicated and passionate about what they do.
After working through a typical medical residency program, future REIs then apply for highly competitive 3-year programs for additional training. Once they’re in a program, they focus exclusively on studying hormones and the reproductive system.
This means that REIs have approximately 15 years (or more) of medical training. Phew!
To officially become an REI, these doctors then have to pass rigorous testing and receive board certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in not one, but two fields: Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
In short, you're in very capable hands when you choose an REI specialist.
What is IUI?
IUI is the shorthand term for intrauterine insemination, a specialized technique that delivers sperm directly into the uterus. You might know this process by a more general term like "artificial insemination" or "assisted insemination."
How does it work? IUI allows for better sperm delivery to the fallopian tube, helping the sperm and egg interact in closer proximity.
It’s a common treatment pathway for moms-to-be, or for couples where the male partner has mild and moderate deficits in their semen analysis, which can indicate low volume, motility, or morphology of sperm.
IUI treatments are typically used in conjunction with medications that increase the number of eggs per cycle and trigger ovulation. Think of IUI as a triple threat approach: better sperm delivery, perfect targets for the sperm, and ideal timing.
What is IVF?
IVF stands for in vitro fertilization and refers to a series of procedures that all share one common goal: achieving a pregnancy. Here is a simplified explanation of the three phases of IVF:
The first phase of IVF involves stimulating egg production via fertility medications. These meds are taken either by an egg donor or a person with ovaries who wants to biologically contribute to the creation of your future child. This process is called "superovulation" (yes, this totally sounds like it should be the name of a fertility superhero).
In the second phase of IVF, those eggs (oocytes) are collected from the ovaries with a minimally-invasive surgical procedure called an egg retrieval, then combined with sperm in the fertility clinic's laboratory to create embryos. Those embryos are then cryopreserved, genetically tested, or transferred into the uterus of the carrying person soon after.
In the third and final phase of IVF, an embryo is transferred into the uterus of a gestational carrier or intended parent to try and achieve a pregnancy.
What is PGT-A?
Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) refers to the process of testing embryos to determine which ones have a normal amount of chromosomes.
Embryos with a normal amount of chromosomes have the best chance of resulting in a full-term pregnancy and healthy baby. Embryos with missing or additional chromosomes are more likely to result in both pregnancy loss (miscarriage) and implantation failure.
Note: As we know, science advances quickly, so terminology changes constantly. PGT-A was previously referred to as "PGS" (or preimplantation genetic screening). Because of this, you may still occasionally come across articles or materials referencing the term "PGS."
What is PGT-M?
Preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic diseases (PGT-M) refers to the process of testing embryos for single gene defects. This test can help to identify any embryos carrying those genes and prevent that disease from being passed along to your future child, reducing the risk of serious health conditions.
For example, if you have a family history of serious medical conditions, this form of preimplantation genetic testing can be genuinely life-saving.
Note: PGT-M was previously called "PGD" - or preimplantation genetic diagnosis.
What is a sperm donor?
A sperm donor is exactly as it sounds: a person who donates sperm to a help create a pregnancy for someone else. Sometimes the donor's identity is known and sometimes they choose to be de-identified (or anonymous). We encourage you to explore the benefits to choosing an "open door" sperm donor as you decide which of these options is best for your family.
While our partner clinic Illume Fertility does not operate its own sperm bank, we’re able to refer patients to FDA-registered and compliant sperm banks so you can select a donor who’s a good fit for you.
What is an egg donor?
An egg donor is someone who chooses to donate their eggs to help create a pregnancy for another person(s). Like a sperm donor, egg donors can be either "known" or de-identified (anonymous). Consider what sort of connection you want to have (and want your child to have) with the egg donor as you move through the process.
What is an intended parent?
Intended parent(s) refers to the person (or people) who will be legally responsible for caring for and raising the child. This status applies regardless of who has given birth to the child or if the intended parent(s) are genetically linked to the child.
What is a surrogate?
A surrogate is a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family.
You’ve probably heard the term “surrogate” and “surrogacy” a lot – these terms are now common knowledge. But the medical terminology has evolved beyond that basic definition, and now the term "gestational carrier" is often used in place of the term "surrogate."
What is a gestational carrier?
A gestational carrier is a more modern term for "surrogate." However, it still means the same thing: a gestational carrier (often referred to in shorthand as "GC") is a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family.
In the past, some families were formed using traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate contributed both her eggs and uterus to the process.
However, traditional surrogacy is legally complex, as the surrogate is genetically linked to the child in those instances, so this form of surrogacy is much less common today as a result.
What is RIVF?
With reciprocal IVF (RIVF), Partner A donates eggs to Partner B, and then Partner A carries the pregnancy to term. For some LGBTQ+ couples, this is a way for both partners to physically participate in the conception and carrying process and feel more intimately involved in the creation of their child.
How does it work? One partner undergoes superovulation with fertility medicines to produce multiple eggs and then has an egg retrieval.
After egg retrieval, Partner A's eggs are combined with the couples' designated donor sperm in the IVF laboratory. The carrying partner (Partner B) then goes on medication to prepare their uterus for an embryo transfer (and hopefully, a healthy pregnancy and eventual delivery).
Knowledge is Power
By taking the time to educate yourself on the many different terms and acronyms of the fertility and family-building space, you are setting yourself up for success. While your doctor will certainly not expect you to speak their language, and will always be happy to explain each step of the process, having a grasp of common terminology can help you feel much more prepared.
Looking for more information? Reach out now to speak with an LGBTQ+ family-building expert and find the right path to parenthood for you.
Working with Gay Parents To Be and our partner fertility clinic, Illume Fertility, as a dedicated Patient Advocate gives Lisa Rosenthal an opportunity to expand her passion and commitment to reproductive health and family building. Lisa is committed to supporting all families in having the families that they desire, in the ways that work best for them.